Jim Merritt

Republican mayoral candidate Jim Merritt presented his Black agenda Oct. 15 at Central Library. He and Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett will participate in a debate about issues African Americans face Oct. 21 at Arsenal Technical High School. (Photo/Tyler Fenwick)

After the first mayoral debate Aug. 29, candidate Jim Merritt told reporters he would develop a Black agenda for his campaign.

It’s noteworthy when any candidate says he or she will have a Black agenda, especially when it comes from a Republican such as Merritt, who has represented District 31 in the Indiana Senate since 1991.

Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett, who talked with media first after the debate, was asked the same question and said his proposals would already help African Americans in Indianapolis.

Now, a month and a half later, both candidates will get a chance to elaborate on what their administrations would do for African Americans.

The African American Coalition of Indianapolis (AACI), along with the Recorder and Radio One, will host a mayoral debate at 6 p.m. Oct. 21 at Arsenal Technical High School, 1500 E. Michigan St.

In preparation for the debate, the Recorder, along with AACI and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, will host “Establishing a Black Agenda” at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, 2624 E. 25th St. This is where community members will be able to give their input on what should be included in a Black agenda.

“It’s important for voters to have a clear understanding of where the candidates stand in regards to a Black agenda,” said Rev. Antonio Alexander, communications and economics chairman for Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, which is part of AACI.

Alexander said it’s a chance for Hogsett to “clarify his comments” from after the debate when he said he didn’t have a specific Black agenda.

Former city-county council member Lonnell “King Ro” Conley said he can’t remember a time in local politics where there was this much momentum behind a Black agenda and thinks this is an opportunity for more accountability from politicians.

“The time has come to kind of hold them closer to their word,” he said.

Merritt offered a preview of some of the topics that are likely to come up at the Black agenda forum and debate. He detailed his Black agenda Oct. 15 at Central Library in a room full of mostly media and AACI members.

The discussion centered around three so-called “deserts” in Indianapolis: education, public safety and economics.

Merritt’s Black agenda includes creating the Indianapolis Commission on the Social Status of African American Males and requiring companies to hire locally from low-income areas in order to get tax incentives.

On public safety, Merritt became animated when talking about how 117 of the 159 homicide victims in Indianapolis last year were African American.

“This is sad, and it also makes me mad. It’s overwhelming that if you’re murdered in Marion Country, more than likely you’re African American. This has to stop,” he said, raising his voice until he was practically yelling at the end.

Merritt said his administration would have a community review of the Citizens Police Complaint Office’s process and improve implicit bias and cultural competency training for Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers.

Merritt’s address came in response to a presentation from the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, and Hogsett will get the same opportunity at noon Oct. 21 at Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

ESTABLISHING A BLACK AGENDA

This is the community’s chance to weigh in on what mayoral candidates should include in a Black agenda.

When: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18

Where: Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, 2624 E. 25th St.

INDY BLACK AGENDAS COMMUNITY FORUM

When: 10 a.m. Oct. 19

Where: Julia Carson Government Center, 300 E. Fall Creek Parkway. North Drive, 2nd floor 

COMMUNITY FORUM AND HOGSETT RESPONSE

When: Noon Oct. 21 

Where: Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St.

MAYORAL DEBATE

Republican candidate Jim Merritt and Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett will take part in a debate that centers around issues affecting African Americans in Indianapolis.

When: 6 p.m. Oct. 21

Where: Arsenal Technical High School, 1500 E. Michigan St.

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